One of the questions we get asked most frequently prior to our starting work on an estate liquidation is, “Well, what should I throw away?” We instantly reply, “NOTHING!” That said, well, we should probably qualify this statement just a wee bit.

For all intents and purposes, you should throw nothing away before we’ve had time to evaluate EVERYTHING — and I do mean EVERYTHING. Still, there ARE some things that go instantly into the bin when we start work.

After the client(s) have taken what they want, we start work by throwing away those things that need to be thrown away. We throw away most opened food containers, for example, but not all. (Vintage spice containers, for example, are saleable. So do some vintage cookie and cracker tins. So are vintage feed bags. For the most part, though, opened food containers get pitched.)

We occasionally deal with a bad hoarder’s estate, it’s true. (Oh, the horror stories we could share!)

On the off chance that a dumpster is required, bear in mind that a dumpster will be of the few things we charge back to the estate. (We pride ourselves on a flat, basically all inclusive commission, yes, but it is the estate’s responsibility to pay for a commercial dumpster should one be required.) This circumstance, however, is rare — we’ve only had to hire perhaps four or five commercial dumpsters over the past decade, and three of those were for one particular estate. (For the record, if you live in Warr Acres, please hire a municipal dumpster from the City of Warr Acres. They’re much cheaper than commercial dumpsters.)

We recycle (or price cheaply and place in the garage) almost all encyclopedia, Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, Reader’s Digests and National Geographics (and other common, modern magazines) and virtually all newspapers. (Contrary to popular belief, not even most vintage newspapers have a great deal of value, although we don’t throw these away.)

We toss homemade videotapes, homemade cassettes and homemade movies that the family chooses not to keep.

We also toss pornography (though not Fifties Era and early Sixties Era vintage Playboy magazines, nor turn-of-the-century “French postcards”), sanitary items (let’s just leave it at that) and other, uh, unmentionables. (No, we don’t sell used undergarments. That’s just nasty. It’s also illegal, and for good reason.)

We donate some medical equipment to Other Options, Inc. before our sales, as we find it in questionable taste to sell potty chairs, aspirators and bedpans. We a) want to see those things sanitized and recycled, if possible, and b) we really have no desire to see potty chairs, aspirators and bedpans in our sales. (And we have no doubt that our customers don’t want to see these things put out for sale, either.)

Prescription drugs (with the exception of narcotics and other controlled substances) are recycled if under a year old. (We have a recycling pharmacy law in Oklahoma that allows us to give these medications to a designated recycling pharmacy. Again, we use Other Options, Inc. for this purpose.)

By the way, if you yourself have medical equipment or recyclable pharmaceuticals to donate, please contact Mary Arbuckle at Other Options, Inc. at (405) 605-8020. (No narcotics or other controlled substances, please — those have to go to a licensed chemical disposal site.)

If there are reasonable amounts of regular recyclables (e.g., aluminum, recyclable plastics, newspapers, cardboard, brown paper bags etc.) in the estate, we’ll be happy to recycle them for you.

Clients are responsible for the safe and legal disposition of household chemicals, though — for those, we highly recommend Oklahoma City’s top-rate Chemical Disposal Site at SE 15th and Portland. (Just show your OKC water bill — you don’t even get out of your car or truck. All the chemicals are taken out for you by qualified municipal employees.) Even if you’re outside Oklahoma City, it’s still your responsibility (as the client) to legally and safely dispose of household chemicals, else leave them on site for the new owner. (Some liquidators, though, do offer a hazardous waste disposal service, but may charge as much as fifty to one hundred dollars an hour for this service.) Most major metropolitan areas now boast clean, professionally run, state of the art chemical disposal sites for their citizens, so taking care of household chemicals does NOT require a HAZMAT suit!

Now, some things that have been basically ruined are seldom saleable, that’s true. While we may be able to sell that Miata carcass you have stored in the garage or that shattered Meissen vase you have stored in a box in the kitchen cabinet, we strongly doubt that anyone will want to buy Aunt Madge’s fifty year old plastic flowers that were stored in a hot attic and have been thoroughly saturated with feral cat urine. We know best what needs to be kept and what needs to just be pitched — that’s one of the many reasons you hired a professional estate liquidator. Still, let US be the ones to decide what can be thrown away and what can be sold. (We know what we’re doing!)

Should we find credit cards, cash, important documents, family photographs etc. that the family may have forgotten, we put these items in a safe place and contact the family (or trustee) immediately. If necessary, we’ll gladly ship these items to the heir(s) or trustee.

Some things we just can’t sell — sorry. We can’t sell liquor, obviously, nor anything else illegal (e.g., goods you know to have been stolen, certain kinds of guns, migratory bird feathers etc.). Even some kinds of ivory make professional estate liquidators very nervous. We can’t legally sell used mattresses and box springs. (It’s the law in Oklahoma, and in most states.) We (again) can’t and won’t sell used undergarments. (For the most part, we even avoid selling lingerie.) We DO sell guns, yes, but only after they’ve been vetted by both a licensed firearms dealer AND our regular police officer.

For the most part, yes, it’s true that you ought not throw anything away prior to our starting work on an estate sale — please let US do the throwing away for you. (That’s part of our job, and we can distinguish trash from saleable merchandise!) That said, it’s also true that (should you be itching to throw stuff away), there ARE a few exceptions. Just refer to this post (or call or e-mail us) if you have any questions.


  1. Estate Liquidators Connecticut on July 8, 2013 at 11:37 am

    The information that you are giving here is very valuable. Up here in CT and teh NY area we try to get every dollar that we can for our clients. ANd most of the time they do not have any idea what is trash or what is a semi-valuable peice.

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